Progress is occurring in priority areas including virtual care, continuing medical education, physician support program grants and information sharing.
The government is working with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) to address immediate challenges facing the health system. The parties are also assessing what will be needed to achieve an agreement between government and the profession in the near future.
“Our work with the AMA continues moving forward and we’re taking action together on immediate priorities. Alberta’s government remains committed to working with physicians in a spirit of collaboration and trust. I recognize and thank all physicians for their critical role in keeping Albertans healthy. I look forward to restarting negotiations as soon as possible with the goal of achieving an agreement that defines our relationship with physicians in a fiscally responsible manner.”
“It is important for the patients of Alberta and the health-care system that their government and their physicians have a productive working relationship within a negotiated agreement. I believe that this announcement demonstrates willingness to work towards such a future and the foundation of a collaborative relationship. It helps address a number of priority issues and will benefit patients, physicians, government and the health-care system. This could not be more timely as we begin to emerge from the global pandemic and need to address the care deficit it has caused. As part of our efforts, the AMA will be engaging with our membership about the issues they are facing.”
Priorities moving forward
- Physician supply: The legislated Practitioner ID system to manage the number and distribution of new billing physicians will not start on April 1, 2022. There are many factors that determine where physicians practise. The province will work with the AMA and physicians to build the best possible implementation plan, particularly with resident physicians and medical students who will be the most affected by the new system. We will also consider input of communities and the public, including through the Provincial Primary Care Network Committee’s Rural Sustainability Taskforce.
- Virtual care: A working group made up of Alberta Health, the AMA, Alberta Health Services and the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta is meeting weekly on ways to enhance virtual care. In the short term, the group is considering the range of virtual care services available and appropriate compensation criteria.
- Education programs: A working group has been formed regarding a continuing medical education program. The working group will provide recommendations for a program in 2021-22, with the expectation that the program will be similar to the previous education program but with revised requirements and criteria. The working group will also explore how the education program can best support physician learning and physician practice improvement in the long term.
- Support programs: The government will continue to fund the AMA to administer the Physician and Family Support Program, Compassionate Assistance Program, Parental Leave Program, Physician Locum Programs and Accelerating Change Transformation Team.
- Alberta Health will continue to provide partial reimbursement for physicians’ medical liability insurance fees through the Medical Liability Reimbursement Program.
- The Physician Learning Program also continues through the University of Alberta and University of Calgary.
- Data sharing: An information sharing agreement will allow the government to share non-identifying practitioner claims data with the AMA. This will support discussions on utilization and expenditure trends, engagement with AMA members about utilization and identification of outlier physician billing practices.
- Longer-term policy: Discussions over the coming weeks will look at the status of the health system post COVID-19, including mental health and surgical recovery.
- Vaccination support: Community physicians are a strong support in the vaccine rollout. A temporary health service code supports physicians in targeted areas to reach out to their patient panel, which will also be retroactive. Details are available in Med Bulletin 245.